Church Rater or Church Hater?
Does a new church rating website help or hurt those seeking a congregation?

I love rotten tomatoes. Not the produce—the website. RottenTomatoes.com is a movie ranking website that aggregates reviews from hundreds of journalists and movie reviewers, and then charts how "fresh" a film is based on the percentage of positive reviews. If a film only racks up 18 percent on the "Tomatometer," I know it's probably not worth my time or $20.

The collective wisdom of the masses may be a guide when selecting a movie, but what about when selecting a church? In a day when everything seems driven by polls, rankings, and consumer ratings, we shouldn't be surprised that a new website has been created to rank churches based on customer—eh, congregational—feedback.

ChurchRater.com allows church seekers and members to rate and discuss their experiences at churches all across the country. It was created by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper—co-authors of Jim & Casper Go to Church. The popular book features conversations between Henderson, a pastor, and Casper, the atheist he paid to visit churches. Based on the success of the book, they're now branching out by providing a service to both seekers and churches. But is ChurchRater.com just another slip down the slope of consumer Christianity?

From the press release:

ChurchRater "is a combination of things: it's 'Yelp' for churches where visitors can rate and discuss their experiences at church, but it's also a social network for church goers and seekers, too, a place where people can dialog about their faith and their lives," says Jim Henderson.
"It's been kind of a wild ride for me and Jim," says Casper. "We never expected the book to take off, but here it is a couple of years later and Jim and I have toured the country, spoken at dozens of churches and along the way discovered that we've become 'America's leading Church Raters!' And one thing we have learned is that talking about faith and church experiences is something people seem hungry to do, so we decided to kind of open the doors wide to our kind of dialog."
ChurchRater.com allows people to post ratings, comments and reviews on churches they visit. They will also be able to connect with other church seekers, and "best of all, they can find a church that's close to their heart, not just their house," says Casper.

My brief exploration of the site uncovered a few concerns. For example, ChurchRater.com offers no criteria for determining what makes a church "good." It is based solely on the opinions of those posting a ranking. Like RottenTomatoes.com, they seem to believe that the collective wisdom of the masses will reveal which churches are truly "5-star." But should popularity really be the determining factor when looking for a church home?

September 21, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 40 comments

Janey

November 05, 2009  6:12am

I recently attended a church for a while that seemed like Rock n Roll Baptist to me. Nothing seemed more important to the pastor than the guitar, drums, flute, piano, and singers being perfect. I walked in early one morning to find the pastor pleading with God to forgive them for being weak. The church seemed to have no outreach. Not even anyone offering to take someone to Sunday School that was held in a different building. I did not feel comfortable approaching the pastor at all. If something like church rater could have an impact on such pastors who focus more on style than content, I think I would tend to favor it.

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Shortcuts to Internet Millions

October 19, 2009  4:38am

You should be aware that there is no "standard" blog approach and that what really counts is how effective you are at communicating to your selected audiences the messages or news you want to get across. From personal diary to magazine-style there are a lot of approaches that can be effectively used to make blog-software become a powerful PR, marketing, or online publishing tool.

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Mark Pettigrew

October 14, 2009  8:17pm

I recently attended a church which I liked for the most part, but the pleasure of the experience was diminished by a couple of things which the pastors said from the pulpit, in relation to their attitudes towards hurting and/or depressed people. Phrases like "pity party" and "get over it" and "man up" suggested to me that these were not men with whom I'd be welcome to share my burdens. When I talked with the senior pastor about the issue, he said, "If you don't like the way we do things here, start your own church." And here I thought that it was Christ's church, not the pastor's own personal possession! What an ungodly, unloving, egocentric attitude. It wasn't my first encounter with such a pastor, either. And then people wonder why there are "church hoppers" and why folks want a means of saving themselves a lot of grief by checking out sites, such as ChurchRater.com, which allow people to learn what other people have to say about various churches before making commitments to those churches. People who have nothing to hide need not fear public exposure of their practices, attitudes, etc. As for the possibility that such sites can be abused in order to libel or slander pastors or their churches, that's obviously a danger, but the same thing could be said of any attempt to hold public leaders of any type accountable for their actions. The fact that something can be abused doesn't mean that the thing itself is bad. If that were the case, we'd have no pastors and no churches either.

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web desing

October 06, 2009  10:32pm

It is not possible to be a practicing Catholic and to conduct oneself in this manner," said Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, whom the pope transferred to Rome in 2008 after Burke's often-stormy tenure as archbishop of St. Louis. Neither Holy Communion nor funeral rites should be administered to such politicians," Burke said. "To deny these is not a judgment of the soul, but a recognition of the scandal and its effe.

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Business Management

October 06, 2009  12:18am

It's Sunday morning. Where are all the men? Golfing? Playing softball? Watching the tube? Mowing the lawn? Sleeping? One place you won't find them is in church. Less than 40 percent of adults in most churches are men, and 20 to 25 percent of married churchgoing women attend without their husbands. And why are the men who do go to church so bored? Why won't they let God change their hearts?

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Business Management

October 05, 2009  6:55am

Many will suggest, perhaps correctly, that the Pope's intentions here are noble. Rather than hoping to stoke the flames of anti-Semitism at a time when rates are already skyrocketing, he is seeking unity among Catholics. That may be, but it does little good for the Church to welcome back a movement that is fundamentally opposed to key points of theology, and does nothing but create tension with the Jewish community, who the Catholic church was finally starting to improve relations with after centuries of complicity in unspeakable crimes against them.

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bil_

October 03, 2009  9:09pm

I started to write a response to this article first based on the "theory" of the website in question, then realized I was just being drawn into the fray. I also realized I was passing judgment on something as an idea vs. a reality, so I rolled over to check it out...meh. What a complete waste of time. I think the bottom line is that "ChurchRater" is just a way to further catapult the careers of Matt and Casper or whoever...I mean, what do they care? They are the winners. I especially liked how at the end of the article Skye mentions that Matt and Casper are branching out into other faiths. Perfect. Doesn't matter anyway, right? Just what each person's opinions are of a particular gathering of people. Soon we can all decide what is best for us, and gather together with all our favorite wisdom and wishes are met. Our stink must be filling the nostrils of our Lord. God help us!

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Business Consultant

October 02, 2009  3:12am

The blog is interesting. In addition to the blog All Ic an say is that, while harboring hate is a sin in itself, if you have committed your life to Christ, accepted Him as your savior, then you have recieved His gift of forgiveness. God is the final judge, not the church, which is made up of flawed humans. Although, I think if you search, you will find a church full of good people who are trying to live like Jesus. And even if you don't, remember there are hypocrites everywhere, in every religion, and outside of religion

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sheerahkahn

September 28, 2009  3:23pm

"If it can forestall another Jim Bakker or a Jimmy Swaggart disgrace (that often go undetected and unchallenged until it is too late) then ChurchRater.com will be worth its salt." I see your point, and I understand your position having experienced Pastoral spiritual malfesance myself...I just think there has to be a better way than...this.

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Tim

September 26, 2009  10:09pm

I think I remember Jesus airing quite a bit of dirty laundry on the religious establishment of His day. I think all saints since the beginning of church have read quite a bit of dirty laundry on the the church in Corinth, Galatia, etc. I don't remember the OT prophets ignoring dirty laundry on Israel. This is all dirty laundry airing inspired by God for ever and ever. Not one jot or tittle of it will pass away. My only concern is believers with negative experiences pinning the blame on individual personalities they conflicted with, and miss the deep seated fundamental corruption of the institutional system that is the foundation under most personality problems. They run off to another church, think the problem is solved, but the bigger problems are the same. They missed the real issues. They are just refining their consumerism, not throwing it off so they can run the race marked out for them.

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